Santa Monica College’s Guardian Scholars program has been awarded a grant of $40,000 by the S. Mark Taper Foundation. SMC established Guardian Scholars in 2013 with start-up funding from the Angell Foundation to ensure that foster youth enrolled at the college have access to services and resources to help them reach their educational and career goals.

“The grant given to our Guardian Scholars program by the S. Mark Taper Foundation is a wonderful affirmation of how much we value these students — and that they recognize the importance of removing any barriers to success for our Guardian Scholars,” said Paul Hosch, Chair of the Santa Monica College Foundation.

Guardian Scholars provides support services to foster youth attending SMC, a population for whom educational disparities is a well-documented trend. The program provides academic, financial aid and mental health counseling; career planning, wellness and student success workshops. Through a collaboration with the Guardian Scholars programs at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Loyola Marymount University, SMC staff also provides transfer advice and assistance. While students do not get guaranteed admission to these universities, they are invited to participate in activities that are designed to increase their likelihood of success upon transfer.

“This gift will have a very long-reaching impact on the foster youth who come to SMC,” said Lizzy Moore, Interim President of the SMC Foundation.

The $40,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation will be used to assist foster youth enrolled at SMC by providing scholarships, grant money, and resources to visit four-year colleges and universities. These funds will also fill a much-needed gap: money for day-to-day needs for the students, such as for meals and transportation, something the emerging program has struggled to provide.

“The work we do is about helping individuals move on and be happy, productive members of the community,” says Debra Joseph-Locke, SMC Coordinator for Guardian Scholars. “So it’s not just about helping them, but helping the community as a whole. Many of them are also yearning to give back.”

There were 76 “Guardian Scholars” in the program last fall, and SMC is hoping to accept as many as 100 students in the upcoming spring semester. The S. Mark Taper Foundation’s grant will make it possible for the program to provide services and programming to address this growing need, says Locke.

“It’s good to know you’re giving someone not just the gift of education but also life skills,” says Locke.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation, founded in 1989, is a private family foundation dedicated to enhancing the quality of people’s lives by supporting nonprofit organizations and their work in our communities.

For more information, visit More information about the Guardian Scholars and other special programs at SMC is available at

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